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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English stikke (stick, rod, twig), from Old English sticca (rod, twig), from Proto-Germanic *stikkô, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)teyg- (to pierce, prick, be sharp). Cognate with Saterland Frisian Stikke (stick), West Flemish stik (stick).


stick (countable and uncountable, plural sticks)

  1. An elongated piece of wood or similar material, typically put to some use, for example as a wand or baton.
    1. Fungi growing on a stick of wood
      A small, thin branch from a tree or bush; a twig; a branch.
      Synonyms: branch, twig, rice (dialectal), kindling, brush (uncountable)
      The beaver's dam was made out of sticks.
      • 2013 July-August, Henry Petroski, “Geothermal Energy”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 4:
        Energy has seldom been found where we need it when we want it. Ancient nomads, wishing to ward off the evening chill and enjoy a meal around a campfire, had to collect wood and then spend time and effort coaxing the heat of friction out from between sticks to kindle a flame.
    2. A relatively long, thin piece of wood, of any size.
      I found several good sticks in the brush heap.
      What do you call a boomerang that won't come back? A stick.
      • 1887, August 23, “At Work on the Thistle”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name):
        It is a fine stick, about 70 feet long.
    3. (US) A timber board, especially a two by four (inches).
      Synonym: two by four
      I found enough sticks in dumpsters at construction sites to build my shed.
    4. A cane or walking stick (usually wooden, metal or plastic) to aid in walking.
      Synonyms: cane, walking stick
      I don’t need my stick to walk, but it’s helpful.
      • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 23, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
        The slightest effort made the patient cough. He would stand leaning on a stick and holding a hand to his side, and when the paroxysm had passed it left him shaking.
    5. A cudgel or truncheon (usually of wood, metal or plastic), especially one carried by police or guards.
      As soon as the fight started, the guards came in swinging their sticks.
    6. (carpentry) The vertical member of a cope-and-stick joint.
      • 1997, Joseph Beals, “Building Interior Doors”, in Doors, Taunton Press, →ISBN, page 82:
        When cutting the door parts, I cut all the copes first, then the sticks.
    7. (nautical) A mast or part of a mast of a ship; also, a yard.
    8. (figuratively) A piece (of furniture, especially if wooden).
      Synonyms: piece, item
      We were so poor we didn't have one stick of furniture.
      • 1862, W.M. Thackeray, The Adventures of Philip, printed in Harper's New Monthly Magazine volume XXV edition, page 242:
        It is more than poor Philip is worth, with all his savings and his little sticks of furniture.
  2. Any roughly cylindrical (or rectangular) unit of a substance.
    Sealing wax is available as a cylindrical or rectangular stick.
    1. a stick of butter
      (chiefly Canada, US) A small rectangular block, with a length several times its width, which contains by volume one half of a cup of shortening (butter, margarine or lard).
      The recipe calls for half a stick of butter.
    2. a stick of gum
      A standard rectangular strip of chewing gum.
      Don’t hog all that gum, give me a stick!
    3. (slang) A cigarette (usually a tobacco cigarette, less often a marijuana cigarette).
      Synonyms: joint, reefer
      Cigarettes are taxed at one dollar per stick.
  3. Material or objects attached to a stick or the like.
    1. A bunch of something wrapped around or attached to a stick.
      My parents bought us each a stick of cotton candy.
    2. (archaic) A scroll that is rolled around (mounted on, attached to) a stick.
      • 1611, The Bible, King James Version edition, Ezekiel 37:16:
        Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it []
    3. (military) The structure to which a set of bombs in a bomber aircraft are attached and which drops the bombs when it is released. The bombs themselves and, by extension, any load of similar items dropped in quick succession such as paratroopers or containers.
      Synonym: train
      • 2001, Raymond Mitchell, Commando Despatch Rider, →ISBN, page 70:
        Scores of transport planes streamed in to drop stick after stick of containers until the entire sky over the coast was polka-dotted with brightly coloured parachutes.
      • 2006, Farley Mowat, Aftermath: Travels in a Post-War World, →ISBN, page 200:
        A stick of bombs fell straight across Wotton; blew up half a dozen houses.
      • 2006, Holly Aho, From Here to There, →ISBN, page 48:
        James and I were in the same stick of five guys going through free fall school last September.
  4. A tool, control, or instrument shaped somewhat like a stick.
    1. (US, colloquial) A manual transmission, a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission, so called because of the stick-like, i.e. twig-like, control (the gear shift) with which the driver of such a vehicle controls its transmission.
      Synonyms: stickshift, gearstick
      I grew up driving a stick, but many people my age didn’t.
      1. the stick-shift lever in a manual transmission car
        (US, colloquial, uncountable) Vehicles, collectively, equipped with manual transmissions.
        I grew up driving stick, but many people my age didn't.
    2. (aviation) The control column of an aircraft; a joystick. (By convention, a wheel-like control mechanism with a handgrip on opposite sides, similar to the steering wheel of an automobile, can also be called the "stick", although "yoke" or "control wheel" is more commonly seen.)
    3. (aviation, uncountable) Use of the stick to control the aircraft.
      • 1941, Jay D. Blaufox, 33 Lessons in Flying, page 47:
        For example: in making a turn, should you throw on too much stick and not enough rudder, you'll sideslip.
    4. (computing) A memory stick.
      • 2007, May 1, “Business Traveler”, in Tech front: Alex Fethiere takes eleven notable portables for a high-tech test-drive:
        For ultimate presentation portability, a Powerpoint can be saved to a stick as images.
    5. (slang) A handgun.
      • Dropkick Murphys, Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya (song)
        A stick in the hand, a drop in the eye
    6. (dated, letterpress typography) A composing stick, the tool used by compositors to assemble lines of type.
      • 1854, Thomas Ford, The Compositor's Handbook, page 125:
        [] although the headings may often be in other type, still, as these are composed in the same stick, they cannot fail to justify; []
    7. (jazz, slang) The clarinet.
      Synonyms: licorice stick, liquorice stick
      • 1948, Frederic Ramsey, Jr., “Deep Sea Rider”, in Charles Harvey, editor, Jazz Parody: Anthology of Jazz Fiction:
        Arsene, boy, ain't you worried about your clarinet? Where'd you leave that stick, man?
  5. (sports) A stick-like item:
    1. two hockey sticks, for the goalie at right
      a lacrosse stick
      (sports, generically) A long thin implement used to control a ball or puck in sports like hockey, polo, and lacrosse.
      Tripping with the stick is a violation of the rules.
    2. (horse racing) The short whip carried by a jockey.
    3. (boardsports) A board as used in board sports, such as a surfboard, snowboard, or skateboard.
    4. (golf) The pole bearing a small flag that marks the hole.
      Synonyms: pin, flagstick
      His wedge shot bounced off the stick and went in the hole.
    5. (US, slang, uncountable) The cue used in billiards, pool, snooker, etc.
      His stroke with that two-piece stick is a good as anybody's in the club.
      1. The game of pool, or an individual pool game.
        He shoots a mean stick of pool.
  6. (sports, uncountable) Ability; specifically:
    1. (golf) The long-range driving ability of a golf club.
      • 1988, William Hallberg, The Rub of the Green, page 219:
        I doubted that the three iron was enough stick.
    2. (baseball) The potential hitting power of a specific bat.
    3. (baseball) General hitting ability.
      • 2002, May 19, “Just Need A Little Mo”, in New York Daily News:
        Vaughn has to hit and keep hitting or this will be another year when the Mets don't have enough stick to win.
    4. (field hockey or ice hockey) The potential accuracy of a hockey stick, implicating also the player using it.
  7. (slang, dated) A person or group of people. (Perhaps, in some senses, because people are, broadly speaking, tall and thin, like pieces of wood.)
    1. A thin or wiry person; particularly a flat-chested woman.
      • 1967, Cecelia Holland, Rakóssy, page 39:
        "She's a stick, this one. She lacks your—" he patted her left breast— "equipment."
    2. (magic) An assistant planted in the audience.
      Synonyms: plant, shill
      • 2001, Paul Quarrington, The Spirit Cabinet, page 255:
        The kid was a stick, a plant, a student from UNLV who picked up a few bucks nightly by saying the words "seven of hearts."
    3. A stiff, stupidly obstinate person.
    4. (military aviation, from joystick) A fighter pilot.
    5. (military, South Africa) A small group of (infantry) soldiers.
      • 2007, Bart Wolffe, Persona Non Grata, →ISBN, page 245:
        I remember when we dreaded the rain, as our stick of soldiers walked through the damp, tick-infested long grass of the Zambezi valley, []
  8. Encouragement or punishment, or (resulting) vigour or other improved behavior.
    1. A negative stimulus or a punishment. (This sense derives from the metaphor of using a stick, a long piece of wood, to poke or beat a beast of burden to compel it to move forward. Compare carrot.)
      • 1998, January 23, “Judicial activism has ushered in hope”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name):
        What about contempt? Isn't it used by the judiciary as a stick to dissuade people from writing or talking about them?
    2. (slang, uncountable) Corporal punishment; beatings.
      • 1999, Eve McDougall, A Wicked Fist, →ISBN, page 69:
        The child killers got some stick. I saw a woman throw a basin of scalding water over a baby killer.
    3. (slang) Vigor; spirit; effort, energy, intensity.
      He really gave that digging some stick.
      = he threw himself into the task of digging
      She really gave that bully some stick.
      = she berated him (this sense melts into the previous sense, "punishment")
      Give it some stick!
      • 1979, Don Bannister, Sam Chard, →ISBN, page 185:
        'Choir gave it some stick on "Unto Us a Son is Born."' ¶ Cynthia nodded. ¶ 'It was always one of Russell's favourites. He makes them try hard on that.'
    4. (slang) Vigorous driving of a car; gas.
      • 2006, Martyn J. Pass & Dani Pass, Waiting for Red, →ISBN, page 163:
        Skunk really gave it some stick all the way to Caliban's place, we passed a good few Coppers but they all seemed to turn the blind eye.
  9. A measure.
    1. (obsolete) An English Imperial unit of length equal to 2 inches.
      • 1921, Elmer Davis, History of the New York Times, 1851-1921, page 61:
        There was another speech in that day's news — a speech which The Times printed on the front page because it was part of a front-page story, and in full — it was only two sticks long; printed in full just after the much longer invocation by the officiating clergyman []
    2. (archaic, rare) A quantity of eels, usually 25.
      Synonyms: stich, broach
Usage notes[edit]
  • (furniture): Generally used in the negative, or in contexts expressive of poverty or lack.
Derived terms[edit]

Note: Terms derived from the verb are found further below.

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


stick (third-person singular simple present sticks, present participle sticking, simple past and past participle sticked)

  1. (carpentry) To cut a piece of wood to be the stick member of a cope-and-stick joint.
  2. (transitive, printing, slang, dated) To compose; to set, or arrange, in a composing stick.
    to stick type
  3. (transitive) To furnish or set with sticks.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English stiken (to stick, pierce, stab, remain embedded, be fastened), from Old English stician (to pierce, stab, remain embedded, be fastened), from Proto-Germanic *stikōną (to pierce, prick, be sharp) (compare also the related Proto-Germanic *stikaną, whence West Frisian stekke, Low German steken, Dutch steken, German stechen; compare also Danish stikke, Swedish sticka), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)tig-, *(s)teyg- (to pierce, prick, be sharp).

Cognate with the first etymology (same PIE root, different paths through Germanic and Old English), to stitch, and to etiquette, via French étiquette – see there for further discussion.


stick (uncountable)

  1. (motor racing) The traction of tires on the road surface.
  2. (fishing) The amount of fishing line resting on the water surface before a cast; line stick.
    • 2004, Simon Gawesworth, Spey Casting[1], →ISBN, page 47:
      Problem: A lot of stick and a lack of energy on the forward stroke.
  3. A thrust with a pointed instrument; a stab.


stick (third-person singular simple present sticks, present participle sticking, simple past and past participle stuck or (archaic) sticked)

  1. (intransitive) To become or remain attached; to adhere.
    The tape will not stick if it melts.
  2. (intransitive) To jam; to stop moving.
    The lever sticks if you push it too far up.
  3. (transitive) To tolerate, to endure, to stick with.
    • 1998, Patrick McEvoy, Educating the Future GP: the course organizer's handbook, page 7:
      Why do most course organizers stick the job for less than five years?
  4. (intransitive) To persist.
    His old nickname stuck.
    • 2011 December 10, David Ornstein quoting David Moyes, “Arsenal 1-0 Everton”, in BBC Sport:
      "Our team did brilliantly to be in the game. We stuck at it and did a good job. This is disappointing but we'll think about the next game tomorrow."
  5. (intransitive) Of snow, to remain frozen on landing.
  6. (intransitive) To remain loyal; to remain firm.
    • 2007, Amanda Lamb, Smotherhood: Wickedly Funny Confessions from the Early Years:
      What I get from work makes me a better mother, and what I get from being a mother makes me a better journalist. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
    Just stick to your strategy, and you will win.
  7. (dated, intransitive) To hesitate, to be reluctant; to refuse (in negative phrases).
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, Sonnet 10,[2]
      For thou art so possess’d with murderous hate
      That ’gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire.
    • 1712, John Arbuthnot, Law is a Bottomless Pit, London: John Morphew, Chapter 1,[3]
      Some stick not to say, that the Parson and Attorney forg’d a Will, for which they were well Paid []
    • 1716, Thomas Browne, Christian Morals, 2nd edition edited by Samuel Johnson, London: J. Payne, 1756, Part I, p. 12,[4]
      Though a cup of cold water from some hand may not be without its reward, yet stick not thou for wine and oil for the wounds of the distressed []
    • 1740, James Blair, Our Saviour's divine sermon on the mount [...] explained, volume 3, page 26:
      And so careful were they to put off the Honour of great Actions from themselves, and to centre it upon God, that they stuck not sometimes to depreciate themselves that they might more effectually honour him.
    • 1742, Samuel Richardson, Pamela, Volume 3, Letter 37, p. 375,[5]
      For he that sticks not at one bad Action, will not scruple another to vindicate himself: And so, Devil-like, become the Tempter, and the Accuser too!
    • 1743, Thomas Stackhouse, A Compleat Body of Speculative and Practical Divinity, edition 3 (London), page 524:
      The First-fruits were a common Oblation to their Deities; but the chief Part of their Worship consisted in sacrificiing Animals : And this they did out of a real Persuasion, that their Gods were pleased with their Blood, and were nourished with the Smoke, and Nidor of them; and therefore the more costly, they thought them the more acceptable, for which Reason, they stuck not sometimes to regale them with human Sacrifices.
  8. (dated, intransitive) To be puzzled (at something), have difficulty understanding.
    • 1706, John Locke, Of the Conduct of the Understanding, Cambridge: J. Nicholson, 1781, pp. 48-49,[6]
      He that has to do with young scholars, especially in mathematics, may perceive how their minds open by degrees, and how it is exercise alone that opens them. Sometimes they will stick a long time at a part of a demonstration, not for want of perceiving the connection of two ideas; that, to one whose understanding is more exercised, is as visible as any thing can be.
  9. (dated, intransitive) To cause difficulties, scruples, or hesitation.
    • 1708, Jonathan Swift, The Sentiments of a Church-of-England-Man, with respect to Religion and Government, in The Works of Jonathan Swift, 7th edition, Edinburgh: G. Hamilton et al., 1752, Volume I, Miscellanies in Prose, p. 73,[7]
      [] this is the Difficulty that seemeth chiefly to stick with the most reasonable of those, who, from a mere Scruple of Conscience, refuse to join with us upon the Revolution Principle [] .
  10. (transitive) To attach with glue or as if by gluing.
    Stick the label on the jar.
  11. (transitive) To place, set down (quickly or carelessly).
    Stick your bag over there and come with me.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 8, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Afore we got to the shanty Colonel Applegate stuck his head out of the door. His temper had been getting raggeder all the time, and the sousing he got when he fell overboard had just about ripped what was left of it to ravellings.
  12. (transitive) To press (something with a sharp point) into something else.
    The balloon will pop when I stick this pin in it.
    to stick a needle into one's finger
    1. (transitive, now only in dialects) To stab.
      • circa 1583, John Jewel, in a sermon republished in 1847 in The Works of John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, portion 2, page 969:
        In certain of their sacrifices they had a lamb, they sticked him, they killed him, and made sacrifice of him: this lamb was Christ the Son of God, he was killed, sticked, and made a sweet-smelling sacrifice for our sins.
      • 1596-97, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act III Scene 1
        Thou stickest a dagger in me: I shall never see my gold again: fourscore ducats at a sitting! fourscore ducats!
      • 1809, Grafton's chronicle, or history of England, volume 2, page 135:
        [] would haue [=have] sticked him with a dagger []
      • 1814 July 7, [Walter Scott], Waverley; [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), Edinburgh:  [] James Ballantyne and Co. for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, OCLC 270129598:
        It was a shame [] to stick him under the other gentleman's arm while he was redding the fray.
      • 1908, The Northeastern Reporter, volume 85, page 693:
        The defendant said he didn't shoot; "he sticked him with a knife."
  13. (transitive) To fix on a pointed instrument; to impale.
    to stick an apple on a fork
  14. (transitive, archaic) To adorn or deck with things fastened on as by piercing.
  15. (transitive, gymnastics) To perform (a landing) perfectly.
    Once again, the world champion sticks the dismount.
  16. (botany, transitive) To propagate plants by cuttings.
    Stick cuttings from geraniums promptly.
  17. (transitive, joinery) To run or plane (mouldings) in a machine, in contradistinction to working them by hand. Such mouldings are said to be stuck.
  18. (dated, transitive) To bring to a halt; to stymie; to puzzle.
    to stick somebody with a hard problem
  19. (transitive, slang, dated) To impose upon; to compel to pay; sometimes, to cheat.
  20. (intransitive, US, slang) To have sexual intercourse with.
    • 2005, Jordan Houston, Darnell Carlton, Paul Beauregard, Premro Smith, Marlon Goodwin, David Brown, and Willie Hutchinson (lyrics), “Stay Fly”, in Most Known Unknown[8], Sony BMG, performed by Three 6 Mafia (featuring Young Buck, 8 Ball, and MJG):
      You leave your girl around me; if she's bad she's gonna get stuck.
  21. (intransitive, blackjack, chiefly Britain) To stand pat: to cease taking any more cards and finalize one's hand.
Usage notes[edit]

In Early Modern English, the past participles stucken and sticken are occasionally found; they are not known in the modern language, even as archaisms.

Derived terms[edit]

Note: Terms derived from the noun are found above.

Terms derived from stick (verb)
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
See also[edit]


stick (comparative sticker, superlative stickest)

  1. (informal) Likely to stick; sticking, sticky.
    A non-stick pan. A stick plaster.
    A sticker type of glue. The stickest kind of gum.
Usage notes[edit]
  • The adjective is more informal than nonstandard due to the prevalence of examples such as "non-stick pan" or "stick plaster".
  • The comparative and superlative remain nonstandard (vs. stickier and stickiest) and are sometimes seen inbetween quotation marks to reflect it.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Possibly a metaphorical use of the first etymology ("twig, branch"), possibly derived from the Yiddish schtick.


stick (plural sticks)

  1. (Britain, uncountable) Criticism or ridicule.
    • 2008, May 3, “Chris Roberts”, in It’s a stroll in the park![9]:
      I got some stick personally because of my walking attire. I arrived to training fully kitted out in sturdy walking boots.


Chinook Jargon[edit]


Borrowed from English stick.



  1. stick
  2. wood, firewood
  3. tree, forest





  1. singular imperative of sticken
  2. (colloquial) first-person singular present of sticken




stick n

  1. a sting; a bite from an insect
  2. (card games) a trick


Declension of stick 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative stick sticket stick sticken
Genitive sticks stickets sticks stickens


  • Finnish: tikki



  1. imperative of sticka.